PISCATAWAY, NJ – A new town village could be in Piscataway’s future as township officials reimagine the 77-acre Ericsson property that could include hundreds of new homes, shops, restaurants and professional services.
Ericsson called its campus along Hoes Lane ‘home’ for decades, at one point employing about 7,000 people in the telecommunications industry. It began moving its operations to Bridgewater last year from the multi-building site that stretches between Knightsbridge Road and Skiles Ave.
Piscataway officials presented their redevelopment ideas to the public at Wednesday’s planning board meeting in the Department of Public Works building. They stressed that the agenda item was only to have a discussion so the public is informed about the township’s intent. No related action items were up for a vote.
“The township believes this is the last opportunity to create a town center/downtown type of development,” said James Clarkin, III an attorney for the township adding that the property was declared “in need of redevelopment.”
Formal actions including selection of a developer and site plan applications and approvals are still about 2-3 years away, he said, acknowledging that a land developer was in contract to purchase the property from Ericsson.
But before any redevelopment plans can be implemented, the property will first have to be rezoned from ‘office use’ to ‘towne center use’.
The hope is to build a pedestrian oriented, mixed use project that will be limited to traffic and will attract the many thousands of workers in the area who want more conveniently located restaurants and services to walk to on their lunch hours, and would have some sort of focal point where people could gather, Clarkin said.
The planning board is looking at design elements that will allow for a traditional mixed use, village style concept including retail shops, dry cleaners, hotels, medical services, convenience stores, and grocery stores along with fire and EMS stations. But drive-thrus would be limited to banking and pharmacy businesses.
“Self-storage and warehouse facilities, and gasoline businesses would be prohibited,” said Clarkin.
Another aspect to the project would be the construction of up to 556 single family homes and townhouses, 83 of which would be affordable housing units, keeping in line with state requirements. Many of these homes would be built along the parts of the property that border existing neighborhoods between Ellis Parkway and Rivercrest Drive.
While a few area residents were in attendance to express their opposition to the redevelopment, citing reduced quality of life concerns for their streets that currently end at the Ericsson property line, others gave their support for the project, making suggestions for the planning board to consider.
“Look to the Plainsboro (NJ) Village Center as a good example of a town center development,” said Albert Davis, a River Road resident who agreed with the idea of developing the concept in Piscataway.
Others who live on streets that end at the Ericsson property line such as Runyon Ave. expressed concerns about preserving the wetlands areas and including natural and artificial buffers to control noise and light.
Clarkin said the 16-acres of wetlands areas would remain untouched and that traffic flow and access to the village would be restricted to the Hoes Lane side of the project area so that delivery trucks would not be able to cut through residential areas.
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